I read with great interest your article regarding the Erie Neighborhood cooperative and its struggle in West Town [Neighborhood News, July 26]. We must not stand silent while a small group of residents with fear on their side attempt to toss the efforts of dozens of working families in West Town aside. The Erie Neighborhood cooperative stands to benefit all of West Town, not just the few families who will qualify for a cooperative apartment. The cooperative will provide a stable and safe home for families currently being displaced due to rising rents and condominium conversions.
The one question that we must ask is: "Is there a place in West Town for working families?" The answer to that question is central to the struggle occurring between the Eckhart Park Community Council, Alderman Jesse Granato, and the working families trying to create a sustainable home in the community in which they were raised. The Erie cooperative is a cooperative in its most basic sense--it is a corporation owned and managed by residents (not tenants). These members have access to a wide range of benefits of home ownership, including sharing profits from operating income, controlling all day-to-day management decisions, improving the property and grounds, and gaining access to equity. By the 15th year, the members of the cooperative will be full-fledged home owners. Their monthly payments will not go for "nothing," they will pay down principal on their mortgage that will directly benefit every family. The cooperative has developed an excellent and fair selection process that will guarantee that its members are upstanding citizens of good moral character. After all, the members must live with each other, make decisions together, and share an investment.
The Chicago Mutual Housing Network has been working with the members of the Erie cooperative corporation who have committed their time and their own resources to make the dream of home ownership a possibility in West Town. These families would not qualify for a traditional home mortgage nor would they qualify for a New Homes for Chicago loan as suggested in your article. It is time that the community wakes up and realizes that the Eckhart Park Community Council is looking for ways to move moderate-income, working families out of the neighborhood to ensure that property values continue to escalate, further displacing low- income families.
Our community deserves better than to see the work of these families thrown away--and the public and private dollars this project has already raised--because a handful of people place their self-interest ahead of the good of the larger community. They do this to maximize investment without regard to their working neighbors who struggle to make ends meet and make a home for their children. Should moderate-income families be denied the same opportunity to make an investment in the neighborhood? No! The fabric of this community is much more important than the wealth of a few. We will not allow this project to be "put on hold." It must stand as a model for home ownership and community investment for all of Chicago.
Chicago Mutual Housing Network